The complications of greed
Several weeks ago, a friend of mine was asking me how my trading was going. I told him that it was going well and that I was slowly learning to be consistently profitable. This guy is a very savvy businessman, and has had a lot of success of his own, but has no experience with trading anything. Nevertheless, I value his opinion.
I explained to him how pips and lot size work, and told him that I was basically trading 10-20 cent pips, making a few bucks a week on positive weeks. With this info he gave the most logical encouragement he was able to give. Based on what he knew and what made sense to him, and he suggested that I lot up. He expressed the idea that by doing this I would force myself to take trades even more seriously and that this would more than likely help me grow as a trader. Since I was relatively consistent already, I expected that I would also make some extra cash by lotting up.
This made sense to me, and honestly, I was beginning to feel a little bit like I was in a demo account since I was trading such a small lot size. So lotting up was appealing for this reason, and making cash would be icing on the cake! I took my friend’s advice and threw a couple hundred bucks into my trading account and began to trade larger lot sizes.
My experience with lotting up, and focusing on profit
As soon as I began to consider the idea of lotting up, I began to dream about the money that I could make. It made sense to me that my trading would become more precise if there was more money on the line. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As I began trading larger lot sizes, I found myself making a lot of really foolish decisions. There were days that I lost a fair amount of money, and still kept trading, taking as many as 4-5 trades per session. I would lose in a trade, and then be upset by the fact that I had lost an uncomfortable amount of money in a trade, but I would still hold onto the belief that I could make that money back. It didn’t work out well.
I didn’t know at that time exactly what I was doing wrong. I tried analyzing my trades, to no avail, because it was simply rooted in trade management. I was taking too many trades and taking foolish trades, mostly based on the hope that I could get my money back. I wanted to get back what the market had taken from me. I suppose the expression is true “Want in one hand…” and… well, you get the point.
After analyzing and making rules such as “rate each trade on a scale of 1-10 before entering,” “wait at least 5 minutes between trades” and plenty of others, I was still losing trades. I would follow this list of rules for the first trade, but then I would get trigger happy and start taking all kinds of foolish trades. I had made a little progress by making all of these rules but I was still failing to recognize the root of the problem. Not to mention the fact that more rules equals more work.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that something really clicked. I was talking to Steve, our director of enrollment at the Institute, and he told me something that stood out to me. He said “A new trader thinks about how much money they can make, while a professional trader thinks about how much money they can lose.” You can find this in a blog post he wrote titled “Money Management In Trading.” It is a great post and I recommend everyone read it.
The effects of this paradigm shift
Realizing this key difference between new traders and professional traders has had many benefits. Many things that I was doing wrong began to almost fix themselves when I saw the bigger picture. Understanding this simple truth helped me to get to the root of the matter. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to trade, or read the charts. It was that my trade management was horrible. Even though I was “able” to trade well, I chose not to due to the fixation I had on making money. I had become incredibly biased in my interaction with the market. I entered trades without thinking about what I could lose, always thinking “I know how to pull pips” and “I can make money.” The funny thing is that both of these things are true. But if I focus on those two things, I am forgetting that there is another element of trading that I have to keep in the forefront of my mind: the fact that I can lose!
After I began to keep in mind what I can lose by trading, and keep the dangers of the market in clear view (no longer obstructed by wild dreams of rolling in money) noticed myself not having to try as hard. I was almost not having to try at all to adhere to the list of rules that I had made for myself. Instead of forcing myself to rate each trade so that I would stay out of bad trades, I found myself staying out of low probability trades without even thinking about it. Instead of struggling with overtrading, I found myself naturally limiting myself to one trade per session, and often times going the whole session without trading. Once again, many of these big struggles that I was having were all corrected with my mindset. This mindset of thinking about what I can lose versus what I “could win” is closely related to something that I like to refer to as passive trading.